First Day in Salzburg

There are 100 or so US lawyers and one Nigerian lawyer being trained here in Salzburg, Austria to teach law in former Soviet countries under the auspices of the Center for International Legal Studies.  We will go into various countries, including Russia, Latvia, Hungary,Mongolia, Solvakia and Poland, for between 2 and 4weeks.  We will teach students majoring in law, which is an undergraduate major under the European system.

We are housed in an 18th century castle overlooking a lake, with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.  Our rooms (son Matthew has his own) are large and elegant, and all meals are served in a huge dining hall with chandeliers, carvings, ceiling paintings, etc.   All very decadent.

The preparatory courses are quite interesting.  Major take-aways on day #1:

*The Russian legal system is not based on Roman precedents.  It was slow to develop, as was the Russian state.

*Although post-Soviet legal practices now include juries in more sophisticated cases, there was no use of juries until current times.

*The Soviets believed that the legal system was a device to exploit the poor, and would disappear with the establishment of a Communist state.

*Our students will be bright (not all that many go to University), unprepared (seldom reading the lectures,which were sent ahead, in advance) and totally unused to the American system of teaching law by Socratic means; you take your life in your hands by expecting classroom participation.

I specifically asked about how careful one should be, in Russia, about discussing such knotty issues as judicial corruption.  The answer was, in essence: pretty careful.  My proposal will be to present the US system; I am not expert in comparative law, and will leave all comparisons (and any implicit criticism) to the imagination of the listener.

Lastly, one of the most interesting aspects of the experience is the diversity of the volunteer attorneys.  They are from all over the country, coast to coast.  Most come from small firms; some are solo practitioners.  The courses to be taught range from a total survey of some broad topic (as in my case, business law) to very specific matters: alternate dispute resolution, prison law, US tax.  As all volunteers must have at least 20 years at the bar, we are a senior group; I would estimate that about 20% are women and I think that all of those are litigators.  And, finally, I sat down at the first lecture, turned to my left and shook hands with a classmate of mine from lawschool,  who I had not seen since 1966.  Small world indeed!

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